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We have all suffered moments of vicarious terror over the past few years as we watched news accounts of terrorist incidents, such as the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. There, some institution, government, or group used innocent children, women, and men as fodder for their “war.” Some have claimed that the pusillanimous carnage was in retaliation for the slaughter of equivalent innocents aboard the Iranian Air Bus, similarly destroyed by American forces during the summer of 1988. Others suggested that it was committed by those interested in thwarting prospects of peace in the Middle East.

Combatting terrorism seems to be a significant preoccupation of governments today. The domestic and international legal communities, however, have failed to respond adequately to the terrorist threat. Terrorism has not been defined properly or objectively. Governments often overreact to the threat of terrorism and abuse the public's fear of terrorism to accomplish selfish foreign policy or domestic goals. There is even a tendency of governments and groups to exploit these fears in an attempt to justify their own acts of criminal terrorism. Governments become terroristic to fight terrorism and oppressors to overcome oppression. This article discusses these dangers, as well as the related dangers of allowing the fear of terrorism to be used to erode domestic constitutional protections in the name of fighting terrorism. Most of the points made in this article about the United States' constitutional government apply as well to other nations, and even to groups seeking self-determination (e.g., the Palestine Liberation Organization).

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60 U. Colo. L. Rev. 471 (1989).